Maider López

Anne–Claire Schmitz: Polder Cup, 2011

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When Maider Lopez responded to the invitation by Witte de With and SKOR to develop a project for the series Between You and I, it was no surprise that the artist proposed a work that forced us to engage more directly with the public realm, and in fact with a non-art public. It is no secret that such artistic positions tend to present institutions with practical and ideological difficulties. Public institutions such as Witte de With are constantly aware of the difficult balance between the desire to ‘go public,’ and the fear of landing on populist grounds and approaching art from a utilitarian perspective.

In our view, Maider Lopez’s proposal, Polder Cup, was successful in mediating between these two poles, not least because the project required that a contemporary art institution takes the challenge of engaging and connecting with other publics. Witte de With and SKOR initiated Between You and I in order to give more public presence to the kind of discursive approach to art that both institutions support and engage with.

Why – one might ask – would Witte de With sometimes accused of cultural elitism decide to involve in a project structured around a football tournament in the Dutch polders? Because we were deeply convinced Maider Lopez’s practice would succeed in activating the universal language of football and the iconic and symbolic power of the traditional polder landscape as a terrain for processes of re-appropriation, re-interpretation and transformation of public space.

Projects in which participation is so open are unique as they open doors to all kinds of interpretive potential. During the process of making it, Polder Cup was taken over and at times actively appropriated by the public domain – volunteers, players, visitors, supporters, media, etc. Without this notion of appropriation Polder Cup couldn’t exist, as it is built by the experience of those who engaged with it: the media, which massively covered the project, highlighted its impact of transformation of the Dutch landscape or emphasized the experience of a unique sport event; more than forty individuals turned their motivation and curiosity into a volunteer experience; football teams were formed out of individuals or groups of artists, architects, colleagues, students, local inhabitants, café friends, existing football teams, … playing for the sake of art, the landscape, camaraderie, friendship, village spirit, or just fun. Far from participating in a banal “collectivity,” each of these protagonists activated Polder Cup by forming a diversity of actively engaged positions.

 

Anne–Claire Schmitz — Witte de With